Objectives: Restrictive policies that limit access to abortion often lead women to seek services abroad. We present results from an exploratory study aimed at documenting the socio-demographic characteristics, travel and abortion-seeking experiences of non-resident women seeking abortions in the UK.
Methods: Between August 2014 and March 2015, we surveyed a convenience sample of 58 non-UK residents seeking abortions at three British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) abortion clinics in England in order to better understand the experiences of non-resident women who travel to the UK seeking abortion services.
Results: Participants travelled to England from 14 countries in Europe and the Middle East. Twenty-six percent of participants reported gestational ages between 14 and 20 weeks, and 14% (n = 8) were beyond 20 weeks since their last menstrual period (LMP). More women from Western Europe sought abortions beyond 13 weeks gestation than from any other region. Women reported seeking abortion outside of their country of residence for a variety of reasons, most commonly, that abortion was not legal (51%), followed by having passed the gestational limit for a legal abortion (31%). Women paid an average of £631 for travel expenses, and an average of £210 for accommodation. More than half of women in our study found it difficult to cover travel costs.
Conclusions: Understanding how and why women seek abortion care far from their countries of residence is an important topic for future research and could help to inform abortion-related policy decisions in the UK and in Europe.
Keywords: Abortion; abortion restrictions; abortion travel.